After effectively taking 2021 off from music exploration to listen exclusively to Erykah Badu and this reggae playlist a stranger made, I’ve been encouraged and relieved to find my appetite for music, and other arts, back in my tummy this January.
Live at Alice Tully Hall by Lou Reed – This January I thought a lot about what I would need to do to become “a Lou Reed guy,” or if I just already am one. Lou Reed articulates his own self-sabotage really beautifully, which I appreciated – this is one of the character flaws that I’ve been struggling with in my twenties! The Velvet Underground really spoke to me last winter, but this live album that’s been doing it for me this year. I walked over to my friend Kyle’s house to play DnD and listened to this version of “White Light/White Heat,” on repeat, daydreaming about becoming a rock star even though that’s not really my ambition (I just want the attention). I got a biography out from the library, thinking that finishing a book about him would mean that I can claim to be a “Lou Reed guy,” but by the time I claimed the hold I had placed on the book, the moment had passed. I think I might count, anyway.
Music Has the Right to Children by Boards of Canada – This album is so me. A moody ambient world that I can listen to while I walk around the wonderland created by January snow-showers. “Roygbiv” especially feels like someone is taking a plastic fork and swirling my guts around.
Hopscotch Lollipop Sunday Surprise by the Frogs – Yeah I didn’t really live for this album as much as I wanted to, I thought it started really strong! The first three tracks are an interesting blend of late-90’s alt rock schools of thought. It is at once sincere and tongue-in-cheek, put together in a somewhat derivative package. The first three songs are great, though. If you want the rough edge, just listen to Butthole Surfers, and if you want the sweetness then maybe I’d direct you towards The Magnetic Fields.
I never read as much as I intend to in January, but this year I did get off to a pretty good start by picking up We Still Here by Mark Lamont Hill. I would really recommend picking this volume up if you’re feeling frustrated by the state of things! It’s packed with succinct, intersectional analysis of some of the ways the pandemic has exasperated existing inequalities. I got this at Abraxas in Portland, Maine, my favorite place in town to get books.
This month there were so many excellent episodes of Gender Reveal, but the one that made the biggest impact was a conversation with Io, co-founder of A.B.O. Comix. A.B.O. publishes comics by Queer Prisoners, including an annual anthology collection. I picked up the fifth edition and have been so excited by the different art styles, stories, and experiences included in the collection. I also really loved Io’s Autobiography Zine.
I also adored this New Yorker profile of Jeremy Strong and his performance on Succession. I’m catching up on the show now, and in my obsession have been consuming tons of bonus features. In my research I have discovered that everyone on Succession is kind of just playing themself, but none so much as Jeremy Strong, whose performance as super serious Kendall Roy comes from a less ironic place than I expected. (L to the O-G…)
60 Songs that Explain the 90’s “Ex Factor” by Lauryn Hill – I wrote Rob Harvilla, the host of this show, a 600 word twitter DM about how much I loved this episode, and he replied very kindly one week later.